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|Pilot Captain William H. Webster (survived) Hinsdale, IL
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Robert B. Widener (survived) Boston, MA
Navigator Captain Francis J. Murphy (survived) Boston, MA
Engineer Sgt Alfred C. Davis, 16064817 (MIA / KIA) Detroit, MI
Radio Sgt Lawrence M. Allport (survived) Salem, OR
Ditched July 9, 1943 at 8:20am
Webster flew a complete tour of duty in the South Pacific, ending his tour with the November 2, 1943 mission against Rabaul. He retired as a Brigadier General. On October 12, 1990, Webster met Japanese pilot Katsuake Kira who shot down his B-25 on July 9, 1943. The research for the meeting was arranged by aviation historians Larry Hickey and Dr. Yasuho Izawa.
Built by North American. Constructors Number 87-8478. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25D-10 Mitchell serial number 41-30313. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bombardment Group, 8th Bombardment Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
On July 9, 1943 at 6:30am took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by Captain William H. Webster on a solo weather reconnaissance mission up the north coast of New Guinea, abeam of Salamaua, cut northeast across the Huon Gulf, then to Finachafen and back via Nassau Bay, for a total estimated flight time of four hours.
After take off, this B-25 reached Salamaua and started across Huon Gulf. Around 8:15am intercepted by Ki-43 Oscars from the 24th Sentai that were misidentified as A6M Zeros by the crew. During their initial firing pass at close range, top turret gunner Davis was killed and the fighters disabled one engine and started a fire and explosion. Damaged, this B-25 lost altitude and went into a turn before ditching into the sea north of Nassau Bay. This B-25 was claimed Sgt Maj Katsuake Kira.
After ditching, the B-25 began to sink immediately. Davis went down with the sinking bomber and was listed as Missing In Action (MIA). When this bomber failed to return it was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
After ditching, Webster and Widener were able to swim free of the wreckage and began searching for the other crew members. Allport used an oxygen tank as a flotation device and managed to swim ashore.
Murphy was roughly 40' underwater before he was able to escape from his parachute and ammunition cans that pinned him down until the side of the fuselage collapsed allowing him to exit from the escape hatch and while swimming blacked out but managed to surface and was towed ashore by Widener.
The four surviving crew members of thy crew reached an island. Later, they met Australian coastwatcher Sgt Pomeroy who arranged for their rescue and transported them in a native canoe to the mainland of New Guinea.
Afterward, a U. S. Navy (USN) Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) reached them and evacuated the survivors to a hospital ship in Oro Bay. Later, all four rejoined the squadron and returned to duty.
Davis was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Widener went Missing In Action (MIA) on August 28, 1943 piloting B-25D 41-30345 and crashed into Hansa Bay. He remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
Murphy passed away on May 11, 2008 at age 87. He is buried at Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in Peabody, MA.
Webster passed away in June 26, 2019 at age 98 with funeral service will be held at St. Paul's United Methodist on July 3, 2019 in Little Rock, AR.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - William H. Webster, Jr.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Robert B. Widener
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Francis J. Murphy
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Alfred C. Davis
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Lawrence M. Allport
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25D-10 Mitchell 41-30313
Diary William H. Webster July 9-11, 1943 [PDF pages 68-72]
News "Third Strike 4 Rescued from B-25 Crash Falls In Ocean After Attack" July 14, 1943
News "Third Strike Slap Happy Pappy Cappy" July 30, 1943
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Alfred C. Davis
FindAGrave - Sgt Alfred C Davis (tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Robert B. Widener
FindAGrave - 1Lt Robert B Widener (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Francis J. Murphy
Arkansas Democrat Gazette "William Henry Webster Sr. Little Rock, AR, 1920 - 2019"
"The Milk Run That Turned Sour" by William H. Webster
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25 Mitchell 9 July 1943
Thanks to Larry Hickey, Dr. Yasuho Izawa and Edward Rogers for additional information
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